Saturday, July 9, 2016

Somewhere between the truth and otherwise ... Behind the name of John Douglas Stark

During the course of work I did recently for the Friends of Waikumete Cemetery, and towards the end of research into dozens of names linked with pre WWI and WWI-related burials at the cemetery, the name of Douglas Stark came up. 

Looking into his story, I found that well-known historians, including Jock Phillips who took this image of a memorial in Kaiapoi said to have been modelled on Stark, accepted everything written in the well-known novel by Robin Hyde, Passport to Hell as factual "oral history" without checking -- and so, even have Stark's name incorrect on the Te Ara site, while Cenotaph have his wrong date of birth. 

This was just the start of the swamp into which facts and information on Stark have sunk over time. There was much more, so -- I put together a paper, called "Somewhere between the truth and otherwise ... Behind the name of John Douglas Stark." An online copy can be found here.

For a man who is said to have saved the life, let alone many others, of Gordon Coates, MP during the war -- I feel there should have been a closer examination of Stark's story, both the lies and the truth, before now. Instead, all we have, in the main, is myth ...


  1. Really interested to read your paper - I have relatives that are related to Stark and I have recently discovered him. Fascinating guy. While Robin Hyde's writing is very beautiful, it betrays its age and she's obviously using poetic licence.

  2. I am Starkies Grand Daughter. My name is Marisa Stark and I am the Daughter of Josephine Florence Rose,(or Flo).My Mum spoke about her Dad often over the years,with Love and Respect Always. She and My Uncle Douglas had wonderful memories of their Dad. They were both very young when Starkie passed.
    I would be very interested in reading your paper as well.

  3. I'll update the blog article shortly, to give the new link to the paper for those interested.

    1. Excellent read (the paper)which itemises the interpretations of various authors of John Stark's 'career', depending on which source(s) you believe. The start point really is his military file which must be read in conjunction with the unit's history to understand the context of Starkie's heroics. I have a number of letters written by Starkie to a Miss Leatherbarrow whom I cannot pinpoint an origin or location for - any advice appreciated.